The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is less travelled than most of the rest of the country. It’s hotter and wetter than the interior with emerald green forests lining the sandy beaches. One-third of the population of this region descends from Jamaicans and Barbadians. The traditional rice and beans (Gallo Pinto) is a little more spicy with a hint of coconut. Reggae and calypso beats can be heard everywhere and you can often catch a hint of marijuana smoke.
Puerto Viejo (photos) can be found far south on the coast. It has a bit of a reputation as a party town and it’s easy to see why. There’s plenty of dining choices with a surprising variety of cuisines for a town this size: Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean, Indian, Italian, USA (burgers, fries and pizza) and, of course, the Costa Rican Soda. The Soda is a generic name for a casual eatery that serves primarily Casados. This is the national dish that can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It generally consists of rice (duh), beans, salad, some type of plantain and either chicken, pork, beef or fish. The work “casado” refers to marriage in Spanish. The story we got was that before you get married you can only afford to eat rice and beans but once you get married you can add other items to the dish. Maybe they have that backwards?
Puerto Viejo sits on a nice stretch of coastline but doesn’t really have a very nice beach. Just to the north is Playa Negra which is a nice wide sandy beach with gentle surf. To the south there’s Playa Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo. This is a 7 or 8 mile stretch of coast that has some picture postcard beaches. (The photo above is from Punta Uva.) There’s thick jungle with coconut palms lining the white sand with clear, warm, green water lapping at the shore. We rented bicycles one day and took the ride down the coast from Puerto Viejo to Manzanillo stopping a couple of times for dips in the ocean. Some parts of the beaches have gentle waves while others have big waves breaking into the shore.
While on the bike ride, we saw a critter at the edge of the road and soon realized that it was a sloth. We were told that sloths rarely come down to the ground so we were surprised to see this one apparently attempting to cross the road. It presented a strange sight, small body face down with long limbs moving languidly. Before we could even get our camera ready, a car came along a stopped. A man and two women got out and the man picked up the sloth. He was holding it up while the women took photos and he let us take photos as well. This was so amazing since our previous efforts to spot sloths had been trying to make out their form seeing them high up in the trees. Before leaving, the man put the sloth on the far side of the road. Also, on our ride, we saw another sloth in a small tree only about 10 feet off the ground as well as several sightings of howler monkeys. Quite a nice outing for wildlife and beaches.
While here we stayed at Hotel Pura Vida, a very nice place owned by a couple, the man from Chile and the woman from Germany, who travelled together for 15 months around the world and decided to settle in Puerto Viejo. This was the end of the line for us in Costa Rica and before leaving Puerto Viejo we reached the halfway point in our trip, eight weeks. We marked a map of the country to show the places we have visited and the routes taken.